Work in Progress: The East wall of the dome. Adam, Abraham, Moses, Aaron

A new post after a short hiatus: I hope to have these first four prophets done soon! I see them every day in my studio, on my wall. I look at them, and they look at me, asking me, when will you finish us? I started on Monday, October 20, to make them whole.


I wanted to make the details of the faces of the forefathers and prophets stand out, so I used these colours that I had left over from painting in September. I had used them last with Aaron.


Our Forefather Adam. I noticed afterwards that his face is turned slightly, in opposition to his leg position. I was aiming for a certain amount of dynamism. There is so little movement in these first four figures.


So, he now needs the flesh to built up. His figure is outlined and I have the road map. It is just taking that journey with the paint.


Our Father Abraham…He is a hairy one! His hair will be more “grey” than Adam’s. Abraham’s is usually, in the wall paintings I have seen, a whiter grey, than Adam’s, which is a yellowish grey.


Once all the flesh is done, out comes the calligraphy brushes and the writing will be done. Luckily I worked that out already.


Everybody with their faces outlined. They will be done soon, I pray. I have 12 more to go after that, and Christ Pantocrator…and some seraphim…by December 1. Still praying for an angel to join me! (October 22, 2014)


Building up the flesh: I did some work on October 28 and more on October 29, although photographic evidence is spotty…the effect of building up flesh is subtle. This is many layers of colour: an orange mixed up of yellow ocher and iron oxide, then yellow ocher by itself, and then yellow ocher and white…the photos don’t show that layer yet…this is Adam…







And then…


All four of them from across the studio, and…


Finally, Adam is nearly finished. Tomorrow, they all should be done. Adam’s hair is yellow based, yellow ocher and white, with the brown undertones…Abraham and Aaron will be gray based. But highlights and the whites of the eyes will change everything. Already Adam seems enlivened and alive. (October 29, 2014)


This is a close up of Adam’s face, how he looked this morning when I got to the studio.








This is how Adam looked before lunch…I worked as much of the flesh as possible, so yellow ocher, white, and a touch of transparent red oxide…plus white with just a little yellow ochre…I try to reserve the purest whites for the eyes, and the  blackest blacks for the pupils. Reflected light is with cadmium red light, on the tip of the nose, the lips, the reds in the corners of the eyes.


After lunch, I looked at Adam and he didn’t look back at me, so I took a scalpel and scraped off the previous eye highlight on the sclera and changed the direction of Adam’s gaze.  When he looked back at me, I knew I had it correct!


Adam’s sandals. I got the feet done…I hate doing feet. They didn’t turn out half bad. I only have 24 more feet to go…well, some of the prophets are wearing shoes, after all…iconographic sandals make no sense in the real world. I realize that, and I think every iconographer realizes that. Tradition…


Abraham: I am working on his beard here….I washed the flesh tone with a grey, and am building up the strands.


Abraham’s hand holding the scroll. Close up it looks a little strange, such big highlights, but it needs to be seen from the ground.IMG_2601

Abraham’s feet and sandals. I was on a roll!


Aaron…I washed his beard with a light wash of grey, to let as much of the underpainting shine through. I will be painting many more beards, so I need to give a lot of variety.


Moses on the way to being finished…

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Close ups of the finished foursome! What a relief, although, no champagne until the writing is finished. tomorrow…and then they can dry some and I will roll them up, put them aside, and get out the next canvas…North Wall Prophets, I am looking at you! (October 30, 2014)

I did more work on October 31 and November 1…rather unexciting work, using a level and tracing letters onto the scrolls, making sure the writing would be level and straight. I got some of the writing done on November 1, and continued…


Here you can see the guidelines that I gave myself. In most icons, there are clear margins in the scrolls, as well as spaces between the sentences. In my earlier icons, I didn’t know the rules, but I do my best to follow them. The quotation was a hard one to find: what does Abraham himself actually say? I wanted themes of sacrifice and themes of Christ’s coming into the world, and the kingdom of God. This one I thought was short and appropriate.


Thankfully there is a certain amount that one can correct acrylic. And one of my best friends in painting is a disposable scalpel: it can change the shape and length of some letters. I am trying to use a slightly modified Roman calligraphy: I am a firm believer that if there is any writing on an icon, it MUST be legible. Even from the ground, one should be able to read something of the message the saint or prophet is presenting.


I shortened the horizontal line of the L in himself, so the word would read better; I also shortened the horizontals in the letter E, so the word “THE” would not blend into “LAMB”.


Moses’ scroll: I could not get the whole commandment in the scroll, so I had to choose an appropriate place to cut it off.  The quotation is Love the LORD your God with all your heart….I thought that would work well.

And now, the drum roll…..


…the first four prophets and forefathers completed, as far as they can be, before being rolled up and put aside. No champagne yet…12 more prophets to go! (November 3, 2014)

I tried to roll the canvas last night, I didn’t have all the equipment–pliers, staple removers, etc. I was going to roll paper in between the face of the canvas. I decided to phone Golden Acrylics–the customer service is amazing–and the woman told me to get painter’s plastic and put it on the canvas first. I went off to Home Hardware, and I have several hundred feet of plastic now.


Lots of plastic…


Here is my erstwhile student Peter helping me roll the canvas onto the carpet tube I picked up from Carpet One in Melville. I was told the painting must be rolled face outwards.  Once the canvas was on the tube, we wrapped it in even more plastic and it is all ready to be transported to Edmonton. Woo Hoo! The East Wall canvas is done–until it is up on the wall, and then I need to gild the background and write their names and halos. Still work, but the majority of the work is finished!!(November 4, 2014)



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